Mickael Pietrus Focusing on Defense Over Injuries, Shooting Struggles

Mickael Pietrus Focusing on Defense Over Injuries, Shooting StrugglesBOSTON — Nobody in the Celtics locker room talks as often or as passionately about wanting to win a championship as Mickael Pietrus. Bringing another banner to Boston preoccupies the veteran swingman, who cannot help bringing up the word "championship" after every opportunity.

Pietrus deflected questions yet again on Saturday about his injuries and his ongoing offensive struggles to redirect the conversation to the team's quest for a title. He said he was not discouraged in going scoreless in more than 10 minutes in the Celtics' Game 1 win over the Sixers.

"I don't think I've been doing a lot offensively because I don't have a lot of touches, but I don't worry about that," Pietrus said. "I worry about the team first. The thing is, you have to respect Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, [Kevin Garnett] and [Rajon] Rondo. They need the ball a lot, so I just try to do the extra things to try to make the team better defensively.

"You never know in a series like this. I just keep myself ready. Even if I don't make one shot, I just try to play good defensively."

Pietrus has taken only 17 shots in the entire postseason and has made just four of them. He has not been as aggressive since Game 3 against the Hawks, when he scored six points but was frustrated by the tight officiating that saddled him with four fouls in only 25 minutes.

Both of Pietrus' attempts on Saturday looked good out of his hands, though, and Celtics head coach Doc Rivers commented that "the ball went all the way down [two] different times." Pietrus' surgically repaired right knee has been swelling again, which adds literal pain to his offensive difficulties. Yet Rivers said he has not lost faith in his slumping swingman.

"I want him to keep shooting," Rivers said. "I tell him, 'You can drive, too.' I think right now he's searching for that big one. You almost feel like he's Albert Pujols trying to hit his first home run, you know?"

Rivers, as usual, is willing to overlook some offensive issues if a player is defending well.

"The one thing I will say about him is, the other end hasn't changed," Rivers said. "He's still defending, and that's good. That's a mature player that doesn't get so down on offense that he stops doing his job. His job for us is defense."

Pietrus did not seem especially troubled after the Celtics' victory to open the series against the Sixers, but he did get ahead of himself. He once again referenced the history of the franchise and its 18 championships — the Celtics only have 17 — before quickly catching his mistake and correcting himself.

Then he smiled. The championship is still the thing for Pietrus, even if he has to limp and misfire all the way there.

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.

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